Hard Eight (1996) / Drama-Thriller

MPAA Rated: R for strong language, some violence and sexuality
Running Time: 102 min.

Cast: Philip Baker Hall, John C. Reilly, Gwyneth Paltrow, Samuel L. Jackson
Director: Paul Thomas Anderson

Screenplay: Paul Thomas Anderson
Review published August 6, 1999

A young man named John blows all of his money in Vegas trying to get $6000 to bury his recently deceased mother. Sitting outside of a diner, an elderly gentleman named Sydney approaches and buys him lunch and learns of his problems. Sydney feels compassion for the young man and later takes him to Reno to learn how to swindle a casino to make himself more money. John learns much from Sydney about gambling, and looks up to him as a father. Although things are great between the two men, things get complicated when John begins seeing a young cocktail waitress/prostitute named Clementine, and becomes friends with a disreputable security officer named Jimmy.

HARD EIGHT is a simple movie but with an interesting story, some great performances, and flawless direction. Future BOOGIE NIGHTS and MAGNOLIA director Paul Thomas Anderson shows his many gifts with a subtle and endearing touch, giving his characters believability and depth. HARD EIGHT is a must-see for anyone who's seen and enjoyed BOOGIE NIGHTS as you'll recognize many of the same actors and even some of the same dialogue. My supposition is that P.T. Anderson thought that since no one went to see this when it was initially released, he could use the same lines again.  Still this film is so compelling, it's hard for me to decide which I like better. With HARD EIGHT Paul Thomas Anderson shows early on why he is going to be considered one of the greats.

Qwipster's rating:

1998 Vince Leo